The Celtic Way
The problem for most of us who live in the urban environment is that we have no way of daily escaping into the natural world which was the spiritual respite and renewal of the Celtic fathers. They drew on the divine origin and indwelling of all creation. To them there was no strict division between the divine world and the material world, it was all divine creation. God was in some degree to be discerned in everything .
Yes, we may have a local park, and it even may be quiet, but we commute to and from work each day and there is no time to go there. Our lives are totally encircled by work, commuting, family.
Christ told us to go into your closet and pray. He did not say to wait until we went to church on Sunday, because Sunday was to be a bit different. Real prayer, conversation with God was an individual thing.
In one suburban house I lived in, there was an enormous cupboard that had at one time contained the boiler. I found that I could get a chair and a small table in there with an icon it and room enough between the two to kneel – so I literally had my closet, a mini chapel. You may have to clear out and adapt a garden shed or the back of the garage or a space in the loft. It is important to have that space that cannot be invaded.
The world, this whole universe is not separate from God. Not only is it His creation in that He caused it but He set the physical parameters which governed the development of the universe to the point of being able to sustain life. He of necessity constantly renews the entire universe and everything in it because the very laws that He built into it require that He do so. So the old Celtic fathers were not wrong in seeing God as constantly involved in all of His creation and all of creation as sacred.
Having one’s family quiet prayer place is important for daily conversations with God. However, individual time spent in some wild place where creation is unfettered around us, filling us with awe of God is also a good idea. Even if it is only occasional weekends, the spiritual renewal is important.
The point about quiet, individual time with God is that this is the time of hearing. The temptation is always to pour out our problems, worries, etc., to God. God, however already knows all that, He doesn’t need telling. This is the time to simply sit in front of an icon of Christ and listen.Try to empty oneself of thoughts about troubles, try to calm oneself, use the Jesus prayer for a bit, but achieve quiet and calm and attune yourself to sensibility. This will eventually allow God’s communication to come through. Concentrate on that icon of Christ to drown out distracting intrusions. God can and occasionally does come through quite clearly, usually before we have actually framed the question. At other times the answer seems to seep in and we feel certain that this is the answer. And most of the time there is no immediate answer, but subsequently a door will open inviting us to see a new direction or a new answer.
Quiet time such as this and quiet time spent reading the New Testament or the writings of one of the great Church Fathers is valuable. It quietens us, clears our thinking and reduces our stress. Most of all, over time, it draws us ever closer to God. Imperceptibly we become more at one with Him. It is quiet, others won’t know necessarily, but it can happen. This is the important thing, this drawing ever closer to God, to aligning ourselves with Him. This isn’t a subject for conversation with others, it is the inner life that Christians can and really importantly should lead.